August 05, 2014

Summer Jobs, Life Lessons

Credit: foto76
Some of you may recall that my very first 2MuchCents blog post had to do with how my high school job as a dry cleaner taught me how to view the world in terms of cheeseburgers. It taught me that it took an hour of folding pants, hanging up shirts, performing maintenance on the machines, and sweeping the floors to earn $5.15, and that could buy around five cheeseburgers. You and I may both laugh at that now, but at fifteen, it’s not that weird for a boy to think of cheeseburgers as a currency or unit of measure. Either way, when I started viewing all of my purchases and expenses in terms of cheeseburgers, and the corresponding pants-folding, shirt-hanging, maintenance, and sweeping required to purchase those cheeseburgers, my outlook on the real world was forever changed. My experience as a dry cleaner really did teach me a real-world appreciation for having to work so that I could earn enough money to cover my expenses and buy what I wanted, but it also taught me so much more.
  • I learned that if I worked harder while I was at work, I would get to go home sooner.
  • I learned that if I worked a lot, I got a bigger check, but that it wasn’t always worth it.
  • I learned that admitting that I was the one who left the blue pen in the suit jacket that was now ruined didn’t help my boss’s short-term opinion of me, but it helped cement my integrity with my boss and my co-workers.
  • I learned that not stepping in the same hole twice and leaving more pens in suit jackets was a wise choice.
  • I learned that, most of the time, greeting people with a firm handshake and looking them in the eye garnered me a little more respect in their book.
  • I learned that a “How are you?” and a “Have a good day!” are worth the effort.
  • I learned that putting your buddy in a dryer is a great idea, but letting your buddy put you in a dryer is a terrible idea.
  • I learned that following through on what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it was the single most important thing I could do.
  • I learned that the customer is not always right, but they are always the customer.
  • I learned what “sweat equity” was.
  • I learned that if I worked hard and well, I would get raises, and I would gain keys to work at other store locations with less and less supervision.
  • I learned that getting to know your co-workers and checking on them when they’re down makes your workplace a lot more enjoyable for you and for them.
  • I learned the importance of being careful with transactions so that my cash drawer would balance at the end of the day.
  • I learned that what types of clothes you wear don’t necessarily mean you are rich or poor or nice or heinous.
  • I learned that the world was a pretty small place and that I would cross paths with many of the people I waited on in other facets of life.

If you’re finishing up your summer job, I encourage you to reflect on what you’ve learned. If you didn’t work this summer or haven’t worked (and you’re old enough to sit behind a steering wheel), I can’t tell you how important it is that you get a job for your future and your personal development, whether it’s temporary or long-term and whether you like it or not. As the great Vince Lombardi once said, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”


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